Archive for the ‘Seafood’ Category


I’ve graduated and still am in Ithaca and there are still restaurants I haven’t been too!  The family came to visit for the holiday weekend and my dad suggested The Heights Cafe & Grille after perusing the interweb.

I may have a new favorite restaurant in Ithaca… Let me show you.

a whopping calamari appetizer and beet salad!

There was also bread, pita, and garlic hummus and we figured two appetizers would be good for four people.  This is the biggest appetizer serving of calamari I have ever been served in my life!  We stupidly asked for more bread right before the apps came out and we couldn’t even touch it we were digging into the calamari so fast.  Couldn’t even finish all the calamari to save room for the rest of the meal.  Not only a giant serving but perfectly crispy calamari with a chunky thousand island-ish tartar sauce.

Oh yeah, and the entrees came with salads choice of arugala or cesear.  I knew there was something missing in my pictures…  The portions were pretty generous with those as well.  Lots of dressing though.

The mains were as follows:

braised short ribs



scallops with gnocchi

The scallops and gnocchi were to die for!  My mom who ‘doesn’t like gnocchi’ was a fan of the delectably soft potato dumplings and the scallops were just like scallops should taste: sweet and buttery.

Branzino was also good.  Not like the most amazing fish I have ever tasted but nothing to complain about.  Is it sad that I now think of the new Spiderman movie where Gwen Stacie’s mom makes branzino for dinner with Peter comes over to her fancy NYC apartment for dinner?  She did say it about a thousand times “My mom’s making branzino for dinner, braaannzino.”

Burger delicious and also giant.  There seems to be a theme here for the portions.

Spare ribs were also good, but I feel like there could have been more flavor incorporated into the meat.  It just be that I’m used to calbi when it comes to spare ribs?  I was slightly underwhelmed nonetheless.

Last but not least, desssert!

chocolate souffle with a frozen berry terrine

On the menu with entrees there was a little blurb that mentioned that the chocolate souffle had to be ordered with the entrees for there to be enough time to bake.  So we foolishly thought that that was the only dessert and ordered two to split.  Well, there were other desserts on their dessert menu but the chocolate souffle was delicious and the frozen berry terrine was cool.  I liked the figs most in the terrine and I think it’s my first terrine ever!

I have to mention the coffee though.  Instead of just the cream and sugar that usually comes with coffee there was a whole plate of rock sugar on a stick, cinnamon sticks, mini chocolate chips, raw sugar, and whipped cream to add into your coffee…  It was the most amazing coffee service ever and they didn’t even charge it since only my mom ordered it.

The website says it’s casual and it’s the most casual fine dining type place I’ve been to.  There are back servers and servers and the decor is elegant and understated.  The portions though were waaaaaaay bigger than I was expecting at a fine dining type place.  Someone at the table next to us ordered the steak and it was a giant pile of meat.  It might have been the way they cut it up and piled it onto the plate but it looked huge.

The prices were also more on the fine dining end but not ridiculous.  The burger was the cheapest entree at $19 but my big teen brother didn’t even finish it.  It was so much food we had leftovers which are now sitting in my fridge :).

Note to self, maybe order one appetizer for four people since there’s the bread and salad before the entree and there is more dessert than just the souffle.  Oh, and also order coffee even though I don’t really drink coffee but they give you so much stuff to add it is amazing.  If there’s one thing I can assure you, it’s that I will definitely be coming back to the Heights!


I’m here in Washington and what is Washington known for??  SALMON!  durr

San Juan Island has that typical island feel, a bit slower, laid-back, and nicer.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t escape the island pitfalls…  Expensive everything… gas, goods, and of course, food.  There are two grocery stores in town, Friday Harbor Marketplace and King’s Market.  FH Marketplace is the one most people go to because it’s cheaper, although a little off the main street.  King’s is more expensive and has more of an upscale feel with eager young teens in polos waiting at the end of the checkout line to bag your goods.  However, my trip just happened to fall right on one King’s summer salmon sale!

Is that not one of the most beautiful things ever?!?  There were all sorts of salmon: Sockeye, King, smoked, jerky, filet, and whole fish with the head off.  I had initially thought that the sale was at the usual seafood section in the store, but my local guide (driver, and boss) enlightened me and took me out to the back parking lot where they had a whole salmon selling operation set up.  Giant tubs of ice displaying all of the above.  I got some sockeye that was recommended to me and it was $7.99 a pound.  The most striking thing about it is the color!  This ain’t no farmed salmon now.  It is practically glowing orange.  Apparently, sockeye is the most orange-y of the bunch.  I picked up that nice looking filet and a small piece of spicy salmon jerky at $16.99 per pound and made out like a bandit.  It was only around 4 but I literally felt like I had to eat my salmon as soon as I got home I was so excited (and actually hungry for some reason).

I cut it roughly in half.





Seasoned with salt and pepper and pan-fried that baby in butter.  Just to get the pure salmon besides the fact that I have no other ingredients.  Actually, I had to use someone else’s salt and pepper…


The final product.

Perhaps a bit crispy…  The pan may have been a bit too hot, but I almost finished that entire piece!  Add some corn and dinner done.


I might even go back and get some more muahaha.  I have one week left to stuff myself with as much salmon as possible.  It’s not even worth getting the stuff on the east coast.  Better to fill my salmon quota here in Washington at the source.  Not perfectly cooked, the center could have used a bit more heat, but delicious anyhow!




Something new ~ Sea Pearl

This weekend was the dad’s birthday which calls for special dinner out. For special occasions our go-to restaurant is Peking Gourmet Inn for possibly the world’s best peking duck. We wanted to try something new and of course I was landed with the task to scope out a new restaurant. In about 30 seconds I found ‘100 best restaurants in DC’ lists but most of the ones on those type of lists are uber expensive like The Inn at Little Washington, L’Auberge Chez Francois, 2941 etc. For the record, I haven’t been to any of those fine establishments but I will before I die. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely wanted to go somewhere nice but also not spend $300 on dinner for 4. After we had already made reservations at Peking Duck, we decided to go for Sea Pearl in Merrifield.

from sea pearl website

It was a large space with bar, lounge, and dining areas. The walls were a oceany teal with mahogany tables and chairs and straight-backed booths. there were a few ‘center pieces’ of iridescent, creamy discs strung from the ceiling in a rectangle that flowed down to the backs of a benches used for seating. It was reminiscent of bubbles or strings of pearls. On the table were plastic, orange, meshy table runners or place settings that popped off the dark wood and had a seaweed kind of feel. I remember speedo used to make sandals with a similar material for the soles but it was much classier than that.

Now for the real good stuff. The food. My family is definitely a bread eating bunch. When the first basket of garlicy, oniony focaccia type bread was down it was gone in about 2 minutes. When we asked for more the server returned with about three times as much bread stuffed in the same basket. The other appetizer was classic calamari. I believe Sea Pearl’s version was corn meal crusted but it was like every other delicious calamari I’ve ever had.

For the mains, the table was laden with the Akaushi Beef Burger, Spicy Crab Pasta, Panko Crusted Crab Cake, and the Japanese Kabayaki Salmon Salad. The burger was pretty substantial with some perfect little skinny fries.

The crab pasta had plenty of crab and my dad said might have been a little too much on the spicy side. I had just a bite and I liked it a lot but I could see eating a whole plateful becoming overwhelming.

My crab cake was the size of a baseball and it was accompanied with a shaved asparagus, arugala salad, a grilled corn relish, and piquillo pepper aioli. The plate looked a little off balance with the crab cake in the middle and the salad off to the side. Asthetics aside, it was delicious and was pretty much all crab the whole way through. The salad was dressed perfectly and balanced it out with some nice acidity.

The salmon salad was big and well dressed and colorful.

No meal is complete without dessert so we ordered two. The Florentian Tower and the Pumpkin Brioche Bread Pudding.

The tower was a huge florentine cookie molded into a cylinder that had caramel cream, bananas, and whipped cream in the center. Initially, we thought it was a little over priced at $12 dollars but we concluded that the technical skill required for the dessert warranted the price. We always make these florentine chocolate sandwhich cookies at Christmas that are always a bit tempermental. The Florentine cookie tower really complemented the creamy interior very nicely plus a spring of fresh mint. I’ve found I really like fresh mint. It has such a different flavor than the peppermint candy vibe. It’s fresher tasting more smooth sort of mint taste. Whenever there is a mint garnish I find myself eating it! I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that or not.

The pumpkin bread pudding was warm and rich with maple syrup, candied walnuts, dollop of vanilla creme anglaise, and a spring of mint. Bread pudding is one of the most warm, rich, fabulous desserts. I don’t think I’ve ever met a bread pudding I haven’t liked. This was was delicious but I’m not sure I tasted too much pumpkin in it.

It was a fabulous dinner that was satisfying start through finish. The portions were satisfying without being grossly stuffed or hungry by the end. As an expensive restaurant prices were reasonable from the salad at $17 to my more pricey jumbo crab cake at $27. The mood and ambiance was perfectly complimentary and I left really glad that we had tried a new restuarant.

Sea Pearl gets: 0 0 0 0 0     5 pearly pearls

Pretty bouquet to close. ;D


Honolulu Fish Auction

What is worth getting up at 4:45 in the morning for? A fish auction.

I am interning with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) in the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) fully immersed in the alphabet soup that is the government. A few weeks ago all the interns got to go see the fish auction in action and a tour of the NOAA offices.

auction action

The auction starts at 5:30 with the ring of a bell but unloading of the ships can start as early as 1am.  The fish are all laid out on little platforms on ice and on some fish samples are cut out at the tail end for prospective buyers to inspect.  Core samples are also drilled and displayed to show interior meat quality.  Tunas are unique fish because they maintain warm internal body temperatures which allows them to be very active and top predators in the ocean.  Their warm body temperatures can deteriorate the quality of fish if it becomes too elevated, for example, ‘burning’ the flesh if the fish struggles for a long time on the line.  The auctioneer and potential buyers move down the rows of fish and bid on a price per pound of each fish.  The fish are all weighed beforehand and the price is dependent on a variety of factors the the 4 C’s of diamonds: color, clarity, carat (size), and cut (I forget how ‘cut’ translates to fish quality).  A variety of buyers come to the auction including restaurants, retail, and wholesale.  The fish are sold locally and also imported to Japan, Canada, and Europe.


Here you can see the tunas laid out on ice on the platforms with portions near the tail cut out to inspect.  On the middle fish you can see a small white piece of paper on the gill with the core sample.




The Honolulu Fish Auction is unique because it is a high value, low volume fish market. For 2006, Honolulu ranked 38th by weight of fish landed (20.1 million lbs) for US ports and 4th in terms of value ($54.6 million).  That morning only one ship came in with 25 thousand pounds of fish so the prices were higher.

the board shows the boats that have come in under the method of fishing

Under “longline” you can see the Sea Pearl came in with 25,000 pounds of catch.  At the bottom, “troll” is another method of fishing and since it is a smaller boat the types of fish are counted up.  “Bottom” refers to the “Deep 7” bottomfish which is closed off during part of the year to ensure a sustainable bottom fishery (more here).  Longline fishing is when boats put out kilometers of main line with individual baited lines spaced out along the length.  The US longline fishery in the Western Pacific Region is primarily in Hawai’i and American Samoa.  In Hawai’i the longline fishery is limited to 164 vessels with 130 active vessels.  Shallow longlines target swordfish while deep target tuna.  In 2008, the Hawaiian and American Samoan longline fisheries landed 14,000 metric tons.


yellowfin tuna

Trolling is a method of fishing where one or more baited are drawn through the water.  In the US Western Pacific Region, trolling is the largest commercial pelagic (open water) fishery in terms of participation with 1,404 troll vessels in Hawai’i.  Catches are comparatively modest at 1,700 metric tons in 2008 with catches dominated by yellowfin tuna, mahimahi, and blue marlin.

Longlining is  controversial because of the bycatch, or non-target animals that are caught such as turtles and albatrosses.  There are mitigation techniques in place and continually being developed to decrease bycatch.  I had a negative impression of longline fishing before I came to the fish market from bycatch and its use to catch sharks.  Although that has not quite changed the fish auction really showed that longline fisheries are much more efficient means of fishing.

huddling around the fish

Seeing all of these fish laid out on the floor also stimulated a sort of emotional response in me.  I wasn’t crying at the auction or anything but it was a little sad to see some of these majestic animals with their tails lobbed off lying there on ice.  Some of these fish were decades old and just a day ago were swimming in the ocean.  In general, people have become so disconnected from where our food comes from.  We never picture the 80 pound tuna our sushi was filleted out of or the cow that fresh lookin’ steak came from in the grocery store.  I do eat fish and meat rarely and I do think it is important for people to reconnect with the origins of our food.

Seafood in Hawai’i is unsurprisingly a very important part of the culture.  Hawaiians love their seafood and it is good.  I love seafood and am all for it when it is harvested in sustainable way.  There is a lot of science that goes into managing fisheries effectively and it was cool to see the outcome of all of that at the auction.  The Honolulu Fish Auction was was a really interesting and eye-opening experience that made me think a bit.  What else can we do but eat, live, and learn?

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*Stats were taken from “The Hawaii Fishing and Seafood Industry” booklet 2007, Hawaii Seafood Project

Info about longline and troll fishing from “US Pelagic Fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean”
handout, Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council